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Authors: Sarah M. Anderson

His Illegitimate Heir

BOOK: His Illegitimate Heir
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This boss broke all the rules for just one night—a night with consequences...

A Beaumont by blood, Zeb Richards has waited years to take the company that's rightfully his. But ownership of the Beaumont Brewery means dealing with a formidable adversary: brewmaster Casey Johnson. She's insubordinate and opinionated—so why does Zeb burn to lay claim to the tempestuous beauty?

Casey earned her place at the company she loves, and no CEO—no matter how irresistible—will come between her and her ambitions. Until one night of wild abandon shifts the balance of power. Now Casey is falling for her boss...and expecting his baby!

Casey got her beer and moved off to the side. It was then she noticed that Zeb's eyes hadn't left her.

A shiver of heat went through her because Zeb's gaze was intense. He looked at her like...like she didn't even know what. She wasn't sure she wanted to find out because what if he could see right through her?

What if he could see how much she was attracted to
him
?

This was a bad idea. She was on a date with her brand-new CEO and he was hot and funny and brooding all at once and they were drinking their chief competitor's product and...

Zeb glanced over at her as he paid for his food and shot another warm grin at her.

And she was in trouble. Big,
big
trouble.

* * *

His Illegitimate Heir
is part of the The Beaumont Heirs series—One Colorado family, limitless scandal!

Dear Reader,

Welcome back to Colorado! The Beaumont Heirs are one of Denver's oldest, most preeminent families. The Beaumont Heirs are the children of Hardwick Beaumont. Although he's been dead for almost a decade, Hardwick's womanizing ways—the four marriages and divorces, the ten children and uncounted illegitimate children—are still leaving ripples in the Beaumont family.

Especially now that some of those illegitimate children are revealing themselves. Zeb Richards has always known he was Hardwick Beaumont's son—but no one else did. The fact that he was unacknowledged ate away at him, and he vowed to get even with the Beaumonts, one way or the other. He finally has his birthright—the brewery and the Beaumont name. Nothing can ruin his revenge.

Except for one outspoken brewmaster. When Casey Johnson bursts into Zeb's office, she's stunned to realize that Zeb is a Beaumont. She expects him to fire her—but she doesn't expect the sparks that fly. Things heat up between Casey and Zeb—but when plans go out the window, will he stand by her or do what his father did and hide the problem?

His Illegitimate Heir
is a sensual story about fighting for your dreams and falling in love. I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it! Be sure to stop by
sarahmanderson.com
and sign up for my newsletter at
eepurl.com/nv39b
to join me as I say, Long Live Cowboys!

Sarah

SARAH M. ANDERSON

His Illegitimate Heir

Sarah M. Anderson
may live east of the Mississippi River, but her heart lies out West on the Great Plains. Sarah's book
A Man of Privilege
won an RT Reviewers' Choice Best Book Award in 2012.

Sarah spends her days having conversations with imaginary cowboys and American Indians. Find out more about Sarah's love of cowboys and Indians at
sarahmanderson.com
and sign up for the new-release newsletter at
eepurl.com/nv39b
.

Books by Sarah M. Anderson

Harlequin Desire

The Nanny Plan
His Forever Family
A Surprise for the Sheikh
Claimed by the Cowboy

The Bolton Brothers

Straddling the Line
Bringing Home the Bachelor
Expecting a Bolton Baby

The Beaumont Heirs

Not the Boss's Baby
Tempted by a Cowboy
A Beaumont Christmas
His Son, Her Secret
Falling for Her Fake Fiancé
His Illegitimate Heir

Visit her Author Profile page at
Harlequin.com
, or
sarahmanderson.com
, for more titles.

Get rewarded every time you buy a Harlequin ebook!
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To Lisa Marie Perry, who never ceases to shock and amaze me. We'll always have Jesse Williams!

One

“Y
ou ready for this?” Jamal asked from the front seat of the limo.

Zeb Richards felt a smile pull at the corner of his mouth. “I was born ready.”

It wasn't an exaggeration. Finally, after all these years, Zeb was coming home to claim what was rightfully his. The Beaumont Brewery had—until very recently—been owned and operated by the Beaumont family. There were a hundred twenty-five years of family history in this building—history that Zeb had been deprived of.

He was a Beaumont by blood. Hardwick Beaumont was Zeb's father.

But he was illegitimate. As far as he knew, outside of the payoff money Hardwick had given his mother, Emily, shortly after Zeb's birth, no one in the Beaumont family had ever acknowledged his existence.

He was tired of being ignored. More than that, he was tired of being denied his rightful place in the Beaumont family.

So he was finally taking what was rightfully his. After years of careful planning and sheer luck, the Beaumont Brewery now belonged to him.

Jamal snorted, which made Zeb look at him. Jamal Hitchens was Zeb's right-hand man, filling out the roles of chauffeur and bodyguard—plus, he baked a damn fine chocolate chip cookie. Jamal had worked for Zeb ever since he'd blown out his knees his senior year as linebacker at the University of Georgia, but the two of them went back much farther than that.

“You sure about this?” Jamal asked. “I still think I should go in with you.”

Zeb shook his head. “No offense, but you'd just scare the hell out of them. I want my new employees intimidated, not terrified.”

Jamal met Zeb's gaze in the rearview mirror and an unspoken understanding passed between the two men. Zeb could pull off intimidating all by himself.

With a sigh of resignation, Jamal parked in front of the corporate headquarters and came around to open Zeb's door. Starting right now, Zeb was a Beaumont in every way that counted.

Jamal looked around as Zeb stood and straightened the cuffs on his bespoke suit. “Last chance for backup.”

“You're not nervous, are you?” Zeb wasn't. There was such a sense of rightness about this that he couldn't be nervous, so he simply wasn't.

Jamal gave him a look. “You realize you're not going to be hailed as a hero, right? You didn't exactly get this company in a way that most people might call
ethical
.”

Zeb notched an eyebrow at his oldest friend. With Jamal at his back, Zeb had gone from being the son of a hairdresser to being the sole owner of ZOLA, a private equity firm that he'd founded. He'd made his millions without a single offer of assistance from the Beaumonts.

More than that, he had proven that he was better than they were. He'd outmaneuvered and outflanked them and taken their precious brewery away from them.

But taking over the family business was something he had to do himself. “Your concern is duly noted. I'll text you if I need backup. Otherwise, you'll be viewing the properties?”

They needed a place to live now that they would be based in Denver. ZOLA, Zeb's company, was still headquartered in New York—a hedge just in case his ownership of the Beaumont Brewery backfired. But buying a house here would signal to everyone that Zeb Richards wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Jamal realized he wasn't going to win this fight. Zeb could tell by the way he straightened his shoulders. “Right, boss. Finest money can buy?”

“Always.” It didn't really matter what the house looked like or how many bathrooms it had. All that mattered was that it was better than anyone else's. Specifically, better than any of the other Beaumonts'. “But make sure it's got a nice kitchen.”

Jamal smirked at that bone of friendship Zeb threw him. “Good luck.”

Zeb slid a sideways glance at Jamal. “Good luck happens when you work for it.” And Zeb? He
always
worked for it.

With a sense of purpose, he strode into the corporate headquarters of the Beaumont Brewery. He hadn't called to announce his impending arrival, because he wanted to see what the employees looked like when they weren't ready to be inspected by their new CEO.

However, he was fully aware that he was an unfamiliar African American man walking into a building as if he owned it—which he did. Surely the employees knew that Zebadiah Richards was their new boss. But how many of them would recognize him?

True to form, he got plenty of double takes as he walked through the building. One woman put her hand on her phone as he passed, as if she was going to call security. But then someone else whispered something over the edge of her cubicle wall and the woman's eyes got very wide. Zeb notched an eyebrow at her and she pulled her hand away from her phone like it had burned her.

Silence trailed in his wake as he made his way toward the executive office. Zeb fought hard to keep a smile off his face. So they did know who he was. He appreciated employees who were up-to-date on their corporate leadership. If they recognized him, then they had also probably read the rumors about him.

Zebadiah Richards and his private equity firm bought failing companies, restructured them and sold them for profit. ZOLA had made him rich—and earned him a reputation for ruthlessness.

He would need that reputation here. Contrary to some of the rumors, he was not actually heartless. And he understood that the employees at this brewery had undergone the ouster of not one but two CEOs in less than a year. From his reports on the company's filings, he understood that most people still missed Chadwick Beaumont, the last Beaumont to run the brewery.

Zeb had not gotten Chadwick removed—but he had taken advantage of the turmoil that the sale of the brewery to the conglomerate AllBev had caused. And when Chadwick's temporary replacement, Ethan Logan, had failed to turn the company around fast enough, Zeb had agitated for AllBev to sell the company.

To him, of course.

But what that really meant was that he now owned a company full of employees who were scared and desperate. Employee turnover was at an all-time high. A significant percentage of top-level management had followed Chadwick Beaumont to his new company, Percheron Drafts. Many others had taken early retirement.

The employees who had survived this long were holding on by the skin of their teeth and probably had nothing left to lose. Which made them dangerous. He'd seen it before in other failing companies. Change was a constant in his world but most people hated it and if they fought against it hard enough, they could doom an entire company. When that happened, Zeb shrugged and broke the business up to be sold for its base parts. Normally, he didn't care if that happened—so long as he made a profit, he was happy.

But like he told Jamal, he was here to stay. He was a Beaumont and this was his brewery. He cared about this place and its history because it was his history, acknowledged or not. Not that he'd wanted anyone to know that this was personal—he'd kept his quest to take what was rightfully his quiet for years. That way, no one could preempt his strikes or lock him out.

But now that he was here, he had the overwhelming urge to shout, “Look at me!” He was done being ignored by the Beaumonts and he was done pretending he wasn't one of them.

Whispers of his arrival must have made it to the executive suite because when he rounded the corner, a plump older woman sitting behind a desk in front of what he assumed was the CEO's office stood and swallowed nervously. “Mr. Richards,” she said in a crackly voice. “We weren't expecting you today.”

Zeb nodded his head in acknowledgment. He didn't explain his sudden appearance and he didn't try to reassure her. “And you are?”

“Delores Hahn,” she said. “I'm the executive assistant to the—to you.” Her hands twisted nervously in front of her before she caught herself and stilled them. “Welcome to the Beaumont Brewery.”

Zeb almost grinned in sympathy. His assistant was in a tough spot, but she was putting on a good face. “Thank you.”

Delores cleared her throat. “Would you like a tour of the facilities?” Her voice was still a bit shaky, but she was holding it together. Zeb decided he liked Delores.

Not that he wanted her to know that right away. He was not here to make friends. He was here to run a business. “I will—after I get settled in.” Then he headed for his office.

Once inside, he shut the door behind him and leaned against it. This was really happening. After years of plotting and watching and waiting, he had the Beaumont Brewery—his birthright.

He felt like laughing at the wonder of it all. But he didn't. For all he knew, Delores had her ear to the door, listening for any hint of what her new boss was like. Maniacal laughter was not a good first impression, no matter how justified it might be.

Instead, he pushed away from the door and surveyed his office. “Begin as you mean to go on,” Zeb reminded himself.

He'd read about this room, studied pictures of it. But he hadn't been prepared for what it would actually feel like to walk into a piece of his family's history—to know that he belonged here, that this was his rightful place.

The building had been constructed in the 1940s by Zeb's grandfather John, soon after Prohibition had ended. The walls were mahogany panels that had been oiled until they gleamed. A built-in bar with a huge mirror took up the whole interior wall—and, if Zeb wasn't mistaken, the beer was on tap.

The exterior wall was lined with windows, hung with heavy gray velvet drapes and crowned with elaborately hand-carved woodwork that told the story of the Beaumont Brewery. His grandfather had had the conference table built in the office because it was so large and the desk was built to match.

Tucked in the far corner was a grouping of two leather club chairs and a matching leather love seat. The wagon-wheel coffee table in front of the chairs was supposed to be a wheel from the wagon that his great-great-grandfather Phillipe Beaumont had driven across the Great Plains on his way to Denver to found the brewery back in the 1880s.

The whole room screamed opulence and wealth and history. Zeb's history. This was who he was and he would be damned if he let anyone tell him it wasn't his.

He crossed to the desk and turned on the computer—top-of-the-line, of course. Beaumonts never did anything by halves. That was one family trait they all shared.

He sat down in the leather office chair. From as far back as he could remember, his mother, Emily Richards, had told him this belonged to him. Zeb was only four months younger than Chadwick Beaumont. He should have been here, learning the business at his father's knee, instead of standing next to his mother's hairdressing chair.

But Hardwick had never married his mother—despite the fact that Hardwick had married several of his mistresses. But not Emily Richards—and for one simple reason.

Emily was black. Which made her son black.

Which meant Zeb didn't exist in the eyes of the Beaumonts.

For so long, he had been shut out of half of his heritage. And now he had the one thing that the Beaumonts had valued above all else—the Beaumont Brewery.

God, it felt good to come home.

He got himself under control. Taking possession of the brewery was a victory—but it was just the first step in making sure the Beaumonts paid for excluding him.

He was not the only Beaumont bastard Hardwick had left behind. It was time to start doing things his way. He grinned. The Beaumonts weren't going to see this coming.

He pressed the button on an antique-looking intercom. It buzzed to life and Delores said, “Yes, sir?”

“I want you to arrange a press conference for this Friday. I'm going to be announcing my plans for the brewery.”

There was a pause. “Yes, sir,” she said in a way that had an edge to it. “I assume you want the conference here?” Already Zeb could tell she was getting over her nervousness at his unannounced arrival.

If he had to guess, he'd say that someone like Delores Hahn had probably made the last CEO's life miserable. “Yes, on the front steps of the brewery. Oh, and Delores?”

“Yes?”

“Write a memo. Every employee needs to have an updated résumé on my desk by end of business tomorrow.”

There was another pause—this one was longer. Zeb could only imagine the glare she was giving the intercom right about now. “Why? I mean—of course I'll get right on it. But is there a reason?”

“Of course there is, Delores. There is a reason behind every single thing I do. And the reason for the memo is simple. Every employee needs to reapply for their own job.” He exhaled slowly, letting the tension build. “Including you.”

* * *

“Boss?”

Casey Johnson jerked her head toward the sound of Larry's voice—which meant she smacked her forehead against the bottom of tank number fifteen. “Ow, dammit.” She pushed herself out from under the tank, rubbing her head. “What?”

Larry Kaczynski was a middle-aged man with a beer gut, which was appropriate considering he brewed beer for a living. Normally, he was full of bluster and the latest stats on his fantasy football team. But today he looked worried. Specifically, he looked worried about the piece of paper in his hand. “The new guy... He's here.”

“Well, good for him,” Casey said, turning her attention back to her tank. This was the second new CEO in less than a year and, given recent history, he probably wouldn't make it past a couple of months. All Casey had to do was outlast him.

That, of course, was the challenge. Beer did not brew itself—although, given the attitude of the last CEO, some people thought it did.

Tank fifteen was her priority right now. Being a brewmaster was about brewing beer—but it was also about making sure the equipment was clean and functional. And right now tank fifteen wasn't either of those things.

“You don't understand,” Larry sputtered before she'd rolled back under the tank. “He's been on the property for less than an hour and he's already sent this memo...”

BOOK: His Illegitimate Heir
6.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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